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The Orioles need to sign Chris Tillman to an extension

The Orioles need to sign Chris Tillman to an extension

Two of the most irritating catchphrases around Baltimore sports are “Joe Flacco isn’t an elite quarterback” and “Chris Tillman isn’t an ace.” 

I’m not here to opine on Flacco and the Ravens’ difficulties, but I am here to defend Tillman. 

Over the last five seasons, Tillman is 65-33, a winning percentage of .663. 

How good is that? Jim Palmer’s lifetime winning percentage was .638, and in his 10 years with the Orioles, Mike Mussina’s was .645.

Tillman, who had an erratic first three seasons with the Orioles, still has a lifetime .600 percentage, in his time here. That trails only Mussina, Palmer, Mike Cuellar and Dave McNally among pitchers with at least as many wins as Tillman. 

He’s climbing up on the Orioles’ all-time lists. With 72 wins, Tillman is 13th in franchise history, just one behind the immortal Sidney Ponson. With a decent season, Tillman will pass Ponson, Scott Erickson and Mike Boddicker, who each have 79 wins as an Oriole. 

To be sure, Tillman’s ERA is much higher than many of those ahead of him, but at 4.13, it’s still far better than Ponson, Erickson and Dennis Martinez. 

It’s not far off two other Orioles greats, Scott McGregor (3.99) and Mike Flanagan (3.89). 

Tillman isn’t an Oriole great, but he’s at least an Oriole very good. 

As for the ace talk, Tillman won 16 games, tying him with Justin Verlander and Seattle’s Hisashi Iwakuma for sixth place. Only Rick Porcello (22), J.A. Happ (21), Corey Kluber (18), David Price and Chris Sale (17) had more. 

All those pitchers ahead of Tillman on the win list had lower ERAs except for Price, as did Verlander, Aaron Sanchez, who led the American League in ERA (3.00) and Masahiro Tanaka. 
No one will argue that Tillman is in the class of Verlander, Kluber or for this year, Porcello, but had he not been shut down for three weeks late in the season, he could have gotten some votes for the Cy Young Award. 

Tillman completed at least six innings in 17 of his 30 starts, and in his third straight Opening Day start, left after two perfect innings only because of a lengthy rain delay. 

By the Orioles’ 68th game, Tillman had won his 10th game and was a sparkling 10-1 with a 3.11 ERA and seemingly on his way for Cy Young and All-Star Game consideration. 

But instead of becoming the Orioles’ first 20-game winner since Boddicker in 1984, Tillman had two bad starts where he allowed 10 runs in 9 2/3 innings, and was passed over for the All-Star Game. 

Tillman was a late add for the 2013 game, but didn’t pitch. 

Following those starts, Tillman pitched four brilliant games, throwing seven innings each time and allowing a total of four runs and just 14 hits. 

While that 14-2 record looked great on July 21, it was obvious his shoulder was bothering him and won just two of his final nine starts. 

Overall, a 16-6 record and 3.77 ERA wasn’t bad and earned him the start in the wild-card game. 

Tillman’s WAR of 4.1 was the second highest of his career, behind only the 4.4 of 2013, the other time he won 16 games. 

Always available at his locker after a game, win or lose, Tillman is admired for never making excuses for his own performance or blaming the offensive shortcomings of his teammates. 

A year from now, Tillman will be a free agent, and another year like this one, and he’ll be a highly sought after one, probably out of the Orioles’ price range.

At the Oct. 6 season-ending press conference, Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette remarked that he had made two runs at signing Tillman to an extension and that he would try again this offseason. 

It will be difficult because the Orioles haven’t signed one of their own pitchers to a five-year contract since Erickson’s five-year $32 extension in 1998.

Tillman is the best Orioles starter since Mussina, who the Orioles famously lost to the New York Yankees. (Mussina signed a six-year, $88.5 million deal in 2000). 

It would be in the Orioles’ best interest if they locked Tillman up for the long term because it’s likely a year from now his price will be much higher than it is now. 

MORE ORIOLES: Orioles release spring training schedule

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Orioles nearing MLB record as pitching continues to give up runs

Orioles nearing MLB record as pitching continues to give up runs

BALTIMORE -- The Cleveland Indians and Baltimore Orioles can smash the ball. Both teams play sound defense, and each has a veteran manager in the dugout.

So, when it comes down to explaining why the Indians lead the AL Central and the Orioles are sinking toward the bottom of the AL East, only one word is necessary: pitching.

Carlos Carrasco struck out 10 , Francisco Lindor homered and the Indians defeated the skidding Orioles 5-1 Wednesday night for their seventh win in eight games.

Carrasco (8-3) allowed seven hits and walked none over six-plus innings to win his third straight start. The right-hander struck out every Baltimore starter except Trey Mancini to reach double figures for the 11th time in his career.

Cleveland held a 3-0 lead when Carrasco yielded three straight singles to open the seventh. Andrew Miller entered and got a force at the plate before striking out Caleb Joseph and Ruben Tejada.

"That's the ballgame," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "That's pretty impressive. For them to get nothing? That certainly carried the heavy lifting."

Miller said his goal was simply to "just limit the damage."

If only it was that easy for Baltimore. Not only did the Orioles lose for the 10th time in 14 games, but they have allowed at least five runs in 18 consecutive games -- two short of the major league record set by the 1924 Philadelphia Phillies.

Once the Indians took control with a three-run fifth, Baltimore was all but finished.

"There wasn't much margin for error with Carrasco. He's having another good year," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "I think that's what a lot of people miss about them is, as good of an offensive club and a defensive club as they are, their pitching was good last year and will be again this year."

Dan Otero gave up an RBI double to Jonathan Schoop in the ninth, ending Cleveland's bid for its major league-leading ninth shutout. After Baltimore put runners on the corners with two outs, Bryan Shaw retired Tejada for his second save .

Kevin Gausman (3-7) gave up three runs and six hits in 5 2/3 innings with nine strikeouts for the Orioles.

Gausman was cruising until the fifth, when the Indians peeled off four straight hits to go up 3-0. After Roberto Perez doubled in a run, Lindor followed with a two-run homer.

"It's kind of the way things have gone, really, throughout the whole season so far for me," Gausman said. "Pitching well and it kind of gets away from me."

Cleveland added two runs in the ninth against Miguel Castro.

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Manny Machado hits 2 bombs in Orioles 6-5 win over Indians

Manny Machado hits 2 bombs in Orioles 6-5 win over Indians

Another poor outing by their starting pitcher left the Baltimore Orioles facing an early three-run deficit and the prospect of another lopsided loss.

Then Manny Machado took over.

Machado went 4 for 4, homered twice and drove in four runs to help the Orioles beat Cleveland 6-5 on Tuesday night and end the Indians' six-game winning streak.

After absorbing a 12-0 defeat one night earlier, Baltimore fell behind 5-2 before rallying to win for only the fourth time in 13 games.

"Coming back from the game we had (Monday) night -- they really took it to us -- it was good to come out ahead against a real good team," manager Buck Showalter said.

Machado hit a solo homer in the first inning and tied it with a three-run drive in the fifth. Then, in the seventh, Machado doubled off Bryan Shaw (1-2) and scored on a double by Adam Jones.

Machado's first four-hit game since last August lifted his batting average 13 points to .227.

"Just happy I was able to do something for us today," Machado said. "We played great baseball. That's what we've got to keep doing, picking each other up."

Miguel Castro (1-0) worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh to earn his first big league victory.

Brad Brach pitched the ninth for his 13th save, retiring Yan Gomes on a deep fly ball with runners on the corners and two outs.

Orioles starter Chris Tillman allowed five runs and eight hits in four-plus innings, but Baltimore's comeback enabled him to avoid losing a sixth straight start.

Asked to sum up his outing, Tillman uttered three words: "Not very good."

The Orioles allowed at least five runs in a 17th consecutive game. That's the longest run in AL history and just three short of the dubious major league record of 20 set by the 1924 Philadelphia Phillies.

Juan Encarnacion homered for the Indians, whose season-high winning streak thrust the team into first place in the AL Central.

"Nobody wants to lose, but I don't think this loss will affect tomorrow," manager Terry Francona said.

Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin yielded a season-high three homers in 4 2/3 innings. The one pitch he lamented most was the cutter he threw to Machado with two on in the fifth.

"I didn't execute a pitch and it changed the game," he said.

MORE ORIOLES: WHAT DOES MANNY MACHADO'S FUTURE LOOK LIKE?